By Yosra Kok
The female power driving the Belarus opposition Svetlana Tichanovskaja has quickly become the face of the Belarus opposition, even when it is generally known that she does not want to become their new president. She described herself as more of a symbol of hope and change than a legitimate politician. She knows that people recognize themselves in her and that this gives her power to lead the fight against long-time ruler Loekasjenko. Alexander Lukashenko has been accused of rigging the recent presidential elections in Belarus’. He even became inaugurated in secret, after the doubt of the legitimacy of the outcome of the elections had already been expressed by many world leaders and the people of Belarus’ themselves.
Recent news of the EU being freed from the deadlock that delayed them sanctioning officials in Belarus finally making sure that the people of Belarus get the support they deserve after over two full months of protesting. A protest that has become famous for being led by women. After her husband, a famous Youtuber, was arrested when announcing his candidacy, Tichnavoskaja signed the papers for his candidacy herself in a form of protest. The people of Belarus massively started collecting signatures for her candidacy and, against their own expectations, the electoral commission accepted her as a candidate.
Loekasjenko did not see her as competition as in he was convinced that Belarus’ was not ready to vote for a woman and that the weight of being their president would be too much for a woman to carry. He, however, was very wrong. An analysis from citizens platform Golos shows that Tichanovskaja received about 60 – 70 per cent of the votes, even when the ‘official’ results only accredited her 10 per cent. The official results have, fortunately, not been accepted by the EU and many world leaders. Many of the voters who chose to vote for Tichnavoskaja did not simply vote for her because they wanted her to become their new president, but they voted for her as the symbol for change. Some citizens, many of whom came out to vote for the first time in over two decades, even expressed they would have voted for a water bottle as long as it meant voting Loekasjenko out of office.
Tichanovskaja has made it very clear that her only goal in this fight was to ensure free and fair elections and expressed many times that if she were to become president, she would make sure new elections happen within six months of her presidency. When she said: “We are not the opposition anymore. We are the majority now”, she showed the strength of the people of Belarus and she told the world that they would not back down in their fight to ensure their freedom and justice. She has asked the EU to be brave and support them, for a long time without decent results.
Nevertheless, after a long wait, the EU has listened to Tichanovskaja and agreed to sanction around 40 officials from Belarus who have been shown to take part in rigging these recent elections. Women-led protests happened all over Belarus’s during the last two months and showed the world how we can stand up to a cruel authority in a different more human way than that is generally common. The peaceful character protesters showed is unique and has been met with hard violence from the riot police. Loekasjenko has underestimated the strength and possible influence of these women, even after allowing the riot police to use unfair amounts of violence against these calm protests. These strong women showed the world that politics can be open and warm instead of manly and cruel.
I believe this form of protest might be very hard to put strength in at the beginning but could in every way possible be more powerful. Women can be both warm and though and this might be the secret weapon of these female-led protests. Let us just hope for rapid delivery of the promised sanctions from the EU, so this female faced opposition and woman-led protest gets the recognition it deserves.